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Tributes paid to ‘outstanding champion for women’ as mesh scandal legal expert dies, aged 63

Alison Britton.
Alison Britton.

One of the “most influential Scots of our time” has passed away after a short illness.

Legal expert Professor Alison Britton, who died last Tuesday, touched the lives of thousands of people during a stellar career, most recently uncovering some of the worst medical scandals in modern history.

Her work on the transvaginal mesh scandal had worldwide influence, as she uncovered evidence showing women were given the controversial implants and suffered life-changing injuries when they should never have been treated in the first place.

Glasgow-born Britton, 63, who was Professor of Healthcare and Medical Law at Glasgow Caledonian University, and chairwoman of the Senate Disciplinary Committee for the University, inspired thousands of students during her long career.

She consulted for the World Health Organisation, the Department of Health, the British Medical Association and the Scottish Government.

Professor Britton lent her expertise to many roles, including Convenor of the Health and Medical Law Reform Sub Committee for the Law Society of Scotland. She was honorary tutor at Cardiff School of Medicine working on the law covering palliative care and chronic pain. She also regularly advised the Grameen College of Nursing in Dhaka, Bangladesh on Academic Quality Enhancement.

But it was following the mesh scandal that she helped countless women around the world when she helped expose some of the worst practices.

She was commissioned by the Scottish Government to review how they responded to the scandal. Her report on the government’s independent review was highly critical.

‘Alison changed thousands of lives’

Elaine Holmes, of Scottish Mesh Survivors, said: “Alison Britton changed thousands of lives. She was an outstanding champion not only for the women whose lives were devastated by mesh, but also for patients everywhere as she fought for change and transparency.

“Without her fearless examination of the facts, and exposé of what happened, many women today would still not be aware of the truth.

“Professor Britton was peerless professionally, but at the same time she had a deep concern for patients which was at the centre of everything she did.

“Scotland has lost one of the most influential women of our time. She will be missed by all who knew her.”

Former MSP Neil Findlay said: “Professor Alison Britton made an outstanding contribution to public health. She was a compassionate, exceptional professional. Her report on the mesh scandal played a significant role in changing thinking on the issue.

“Many will be deeply saddened to hear of her passing.”

Professor Alison Britton © Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
Professor Alison Britton.

Professor Britton is survived by her husband Mitch, their two children, Douglas and Natasha and her much-loved Alsatian dog, Bear.

Mitch said he had been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from people who knew his wife.

He said he treasures so many stories and memories of his beloved wife, but there is one he wanted to share.

Mitch said: “The Bank of Scotland refused to let Alison take the bank exams nearly 40 years ago.

“They thought she was too thick because she did not have a Maths O Level.

“Alison thought ‘stuff them’ and left to study for a law degree.

“They let the cleverest woman in Scotland go!”

Scottish Conservative MSP Jackson Carlaw said: “Scotland has lost one of its most outstanding public servants far, far too early. Alison Britton’s two landmark reports have changed government policy, saved the lives and futures of countless women and influenced Mesh policy the world over.

“Seldom have I worked with someone more committed to, compassionate about and fearless to defend the all too many women scarred by the Mesh scandal.

“I am not easily moved to tears but I was just stunned by this loss. All of us must ensure that the multiple recommendations she made are fully implemented and stand as her legacy.”

Leading urogynaecologist Dr Wael Agur said: “Alison Britton was so fair and independent in a biased world.

“She was a fearless advocate for patients. We have lost a consummate professional who I am sure would have continued to make a difference.”